Years ago I lived in France. When I moved there I thought that my high school French would be good enough—until I tried to buy something from a local merchant. I soon discovered that I didn’t speak French at all and that I was excluded from really joining into as much as I wanted to because I didn’t understand the nuances of the language. I very quickly improved my French.
Landscape design has a multi-layered nuanced language of its own complete with colloquialisms and slang. It’s much more than botanical Latin. This language encompasses the technological terms that landscape designers need to communicate to effectively to clients, nurseries, contractors, engineers, and a host of others we interact with on a daily basis.
In the early stages of my landscape design career, I would go enthusiastically to seminars and trade shows and come away shell shocked. There was so much to learn, so many interconnected disciplines with so many terms I didn’t understand. What did B&B mean? What was an ogee? What was rise and run? What does GPH have to do with the waterfall I was designing? That beautiful plant was a Rhododendron what? What do you mean ‘green side up’?
When working with a woodworker on-site the other day, I realized that I had once again, become fluent in another language. I was discussing the construction detail of a pergola using words like ogee, facia, stringer, mortise and header. Then I moved on to the planting crew and at the client’s request asked them to order additional plants using the botanical Latin names that now flow easily in my conversations about plants. After I had finished, another contractor, who had been eavesdropping while waiting for me to talk to him, approached me and asked…’How do you know all of that?’ I answered, ‘I have to I’m a landscape designer’.